Keeping on from the trip to Ireland, later in the week we headed up to Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland, photos today are going to be from the drive up and seeing things in Antrim.
Again, first the travel summary. I’ll start off with something that wasn’t so great. Our two days in the north were July 11th and July 12th, and frankly I wouldn’t recommend going up either of those days. For those who, like me, weren’t aware of what the twelfth signifies and some of the history, relevant wikipedia entry here. Side-stepping the politics and impact to normal people’s lives aspect, there are some pretty big impacts to a traveler. First is that the restaurants and pubs are either closed those nights or are closing early. Apparently the bus service is shut down early too. Also, the twelth is a bank-holiday meaning that shops and whatnot are closed anyway that day. Talking with the bartender at our hotel, he mentioned it’s the only days that he actually worries and checks in on his friends to see if everyone made it home OK, since there are still some people who commit random acts of violence. Definitely not great for those that live there and not so reassuring for a traveler either. The other impact is traffic – the parades on the twelth generally are through the main street of the town or village, which is also the road that you’d be using to pass through. Note the conflict there :). On a less good note, if you’re driving through a strongly loyalist area where people are lining the streets for the parade and your car is a (southern) Ireland registered car, you’re going to get some very strange looks. Not that I think anything necessarily was going to happen to us, but hey, people are crazy some times. That said, I’d absolutely go back up to the North and to Belfast again to give it a proper visit. The people we talked to were all very nice, Belfast has some cool old buildings, and the landscape in the North was absolutely beautiful. I’d also like to go back to drive the coast road as it looked beautiful. We started up it on our way to Antrim and turned around and changed routes when we realized the impact the parades were going to have.
Positive things and sights: Giant’s Causeway is a pretty amazing sight, particularly if you get great weather like we had 🙂 and is a definite must-visit if you’re anywhere near it. The new visitors center is very shiny and new, though it’s a bit annoying that you have to buy a ticket for the center to be able to talk to the tourist information people – that really felt like something that should have been available to everyone for free. The rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede felt more like a made-up tourist attraction but still is worth doing if you have time and are in the area but if you have to cut something it’s definitely cutable. It’s probably also a lot cooler if you go to it first and then the Giant’s Causeway, I felt a little underwhelmed seeing them in the reverse order. I can’t really speak to the Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills town since it was closed by the time we tried to go, but I hear it’s very cool.
As we drove back from Carrickfergus back to the inland route up to the Giant’s Causeway, I caught this shot of a woman enjoying the sunny-ish day and view as re driving by.
The rocks of the causeway make a great natural chair 🙂
Part of the Giant’s Causeway:
The same columns exist in the hill towards the back of the picture above.
Getting back up to the top of the hill
Shot towards a farmer’s fields border the trail at the top of the hill
Nice shadows coming off the rope-bridge